by Fraser Rodgers
January 17, 2014, MERRITT, BC (ISN) – Lady Luck wasn’t too kind to the Penticton Vees on Friday in their 2-1 loss to the Merritt Centennials at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Three posts and an odd bounce was the difference, as the Vees dropped their second straight contest by a 2-1 score.
The Vees record slips to 27-11-2-3 with the setback and they see their lead atop of the Interior Division shrink to five points, as the West Kelowna Warriors dumped the Vernon Vipers 5-3 at home.
The Centennials (22-17-3-1) got the game-winner midway through the third period off a strange bounce and from an unexpected source. Daniel Nachbaur broke into the clear after he slipped past two Vees defenders as he chased down the puck inside the Vees blue-line. Nachbaur finished the play off by tucking a backhand underneath Hunter Miska’s glove at 9:01. Nachbaur scoring just his fifth goal of the season after Jason Bird’s dump-in deflected off a Centennial in the neutral zone and right to the streaking Nachbaur.
Like Wednesday, the Vees trailed going into the third, but tonight found an equalizer just seven seconds into the period. The Vees started the period on the power-play, after a Merritt penalty carried over from the second. Off the opening face-off, Brad McClure was first to a shoot-in behind the Cents’ net and spotted Eric Benoit camped out front. Benoit quickly one-timed the puck past Devin Kero’s glove for his second and the Vees first power-play goal in three games.
After a scoreless first period, Diego Cuglietta had a golden opportunity to break the ice, when he was given a penalty-shot five minutes into the second. Cuglietta tried to go over Miska’s glove on his penalty-shot attempt but was bid was turned aside by the Vees goaltender; Miska stopping two Merritt penalty-shots in his last two starts against the Cents’.
Cuglietta was given an opportunity to redeem himself later in the period and he didn’t let it go to waste. Jason Bird lobbed the puck out to Cuglietta at the Vees bench in the neutral zone and he skated in on an odd-man rush. Cuglietta kept the puck and from the left-circle, put a dart past the blocker of Miska at 9:52.
Brett Beauvais and Nic Pierog had two great chances to equalize in the second but couldn’t get a bounce to go their way. Twice Beauvais rang shots off the Merritt cross-bar or post and Pierog had his attempt roles inches wide of the post.
On Beauvais’ first chance, he side-stepped a sprawled Merritt defender in the left-circle before wiring a wrist-shot off the middle of the cross-bar. Later he hammered a clapper from the point off the corner of the post over a screened Kero. Beauvais would complete the hat-trick of sorts in the third, when another of his bombs from the blue-line clanked off the red iron.
Late in the second, Pierog took a drop pass from Steen Cooper at the top of the circle but his five-hole bid caught just enough of Kero’s bad to change direction and roll wide of the far-post.
Cooper himself was inches away from opening the scoring in the first for the Vees. Cooper moved down the right-wing and fired a wrist-shot from the circle that just glanced off the handle of Kero’s stick.
Final Score: 2-1 Centennials
Shots: 36-23 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 1-6 Centennials 0-2
Three Stars: 1) Devin Kero 2) Jason Bird 3) Brett Beauvais
Record: 27-11-2-3 / Road: 13-7-2-1
Despite throwing sixty shots at the opposition net in the last two games, the Vees have only manufactured two goals in six periods; one at even strength. Friday marks just the fourth time this season the Vees have dropped back-to-back games; first time since December 21st. The Vees are now 1-8-1-1 when they trail after the second period and are 7-2-1-1 when coming off a loss the game before. The Vees finish with a 4-1-1-1 record against Merritt this season.
It’s a quick turnaround for Penticton, as they’re right back at it tomorrow afternoon, when they host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the SOEC; puck drop is 6pm. Saturday is just the third meeting with the Silverbacks this season and first in Penticton. It’s also the Vees School Spirit Competition Night brought to you by Dairy Queen Penticton. Schools from across School District 67 will be competing for two $500 cash donations for their Parent Advisory Committees (PAC), courtesy of Underwriters Insurance. Winning schools will be competing for the highest game attendance and the school with the most spirit during the game.
Tickets are just $10 for adults and seniors. For children and students, tickets are just $2! $1.00 from every adult and senior ticket and 50/50 proceeds will be donated to the Penticton Soupateria! Plus, for every person attending the game, CIBC Wood Gundy will generously donate $1.00 to the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club!